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Latest Happenings at the Montana Learning Center
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| May 2022 |
Montana Learning Center to Host Stargazing Nights at State’s Largest Observatory
For three nights this summer, the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake will open its state-of-the-art observatory park to the public. The events will begin at sunset with a presentation from one of the Center’s expert astronomers, followed by a tour of the night sky using the site’s world-class telescopes.
The first event on June 24 features astronomer and night-sky photographer Shane Mayer-Gawlik.
On July 23, the MLC executive director, Ryan Hannahoe, will lead the talk and astronomical tour.
The final event on August 5 features professional astronomer and observatory director for the Mars Society Peter Detterline.
| April 2022 |
Two NASA NESSP-Funded Educators Awarded National Recognition
Teachers from the NASA-affiliated Montana Learning Center in Helena, Mont. are being lauded as two of the nation’s leading educators.
Fifth grade teacher Chris Pavlovich of East Side Intermediate School in Livingston, Mont., was recently recognized with the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. Recipients reflect the best of the expertise and dedication to their profession among the nation’s body of teachers, and demonstrate how outstanding educators can dramatically impact student achievement. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Arlee High School science teacher Bill Stockton is the 2022 Montana Teacher of the Year, and joins a cohort of 56 Teachers of the Year, representing every state and territory across America. The national Teacher of the Year program aims to encourage student success by enhancing teachers’ leadership abilities and classroom creativity. Recipients meet in Washington, DC for further training and to exchange ideas about their innovative approaches to student learning. Stockton teaches high school science on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Northwestern Montana, and the Montana Digital Academy.
| March 2022 |
Montana Learning Center announces Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University scholarships
The Montana Learning Center is partnering with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, to offer up to $20,000 in scholarships annually to graduating Montana Aerospace Scholars, up to $5,000 annually per scholar. Scholarships are awarded to first-year college students attending Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus in the fall.
The aim of the Montana Aerospace Scholars Embry-Riddle Prescott Scholarship is to recognize high school students who have demonstrated significant achievements in education and leadership during their high school careers.
| February 2022 |
Montana Learning Center Reports Record Telescope Use
The Montana Learning Center is reporting record use of its three state-of-the-art observatories, offering unique learning opportunities to more students and educators than ever before.
Data compiled by the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, the Learning Center’s university partner and Skynet host, indicates that since the Montana Learning Center started working with students and teachers on the Perez Observatory in 2020, more than 2,500 users, including 185 groups such as universities, schools, and other organizations, have completed and downloaded more than 38,000 light exposures.
The Pérez Observatory houses a 16” RC Optical Systems telescope, hosted by New Mexico Skies, and is situated on a mountain top in Mayhill, New Mexico. Thanks to the very kind generosity of Christian Pérez and Mike and Lynn Rice of New Mexico Skies, Learning Center students and teachers have the opportunity to access this amazing resource located 7,300 feet above sea level. This partnership provides unparalleled educational experiences for students and teachers across Montana and the Northwest region.
| November 2021 |
End of the the year highlights with Montana Learning Center
What an amazing year 2021 has been for Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake!
Thanks to your generosity, we were able to successfully overcome challenges posed by COVID-19 and host a record-breaking 530 campers this summer! That’s 200 more campers than our previous record, set in 2020! We also expanded our geology lab, updated our rock cutting and polishing equipment, added a commercial oven in our kitchen and held our first-ever adult summer science camp.
We are currently developing our curriculum for the 2022 camp season, and it looks to be another great year. We hope to offer more off-site camps in 2022, but that will depend on our ability to obtain additional transportation for campers and staff. We’re also hoping to remodel the kitchen over the next few summers, so we can continue providing the best camp food around!
As we continue to grow and develop new programs, we cannot thank you enough for your vital support.
| October 2021 |
Montana Learning Center to expand the largest observatory in Montana with gift from Mike and Lynn Rice of New Mexico Skies
The largest observatory in Montana, housed at the Montana Learning Center, will add a state-of-the-art telescope thanks to a generous donation by Mike and Lynn Rice of New Mexico Skies Remote Observatories. The couple is gifting Mike’s personal, custom made, 24″ research-grade robotic telescope to the MLC. It will be the largest robotic telescope in the state, and further enhance the astronomy program of the MLC.
The telescope’s optics are ion milled, a technique that results in the most precise mirrors and lenses on the market, for an unparalleled look at the universe. Most people are familiar with visual telescopes, where a viewer looks through an eyepiece, but they are only as good as the user’s vision; by comparison, research-grade, robotic scopes can be outfitted with high resolution camera systems and other instrumentation to better study the night sky.
“This is the best telescope available in this class diameter,” said Ryan Hannahoe, executive director of the MLC. “And this will be the largest robotic, publicly accessible telescope in the state. It’s a tremendous addition to our campus, and will be a wonderful asset for our programs.”
| September 2021 |
NASA Awards a $360,000 Grant to Montana Learning Center
NASA has awarded a $360,000 grant to the Montana Learning Center (MLC) at Canyon Ferry Lake in Helena, Mont. to continue funding its education and outreach for an additional four years. The award will support a variety of the Learning Center’s programs, and will take effect January 1, 2022.
The MLC received this award as a partner of the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pathways (NESSP) at Central Washington University. NESSP’s mission is to provide NASA-themed STEM activities to underserved students throughout the Northwest. Earlier this year, NASA awarded a $90,000 NESSP grant to the MLC to connect Montana students and teachers with cutting-edge NASA science and improve students’ and teachers’ STEM skills.
NASA has long been a supporter of the MLC, providing funds for a variety of programs that not only encourage engagement with STEM professionals, but also help students develop their collaboration and communications skills, hone their strategic and tactical planning, implementation and documentation abilities, and build other skills necessary for success in today’s educational and work environments.
| August 2021 |
Montana Learning Center Celebrates Its 2021 Scholars
The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake near Helena is the state’s premier summer science camp. Award-winning science teachers journey to the MLC every summer to encourage children to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and action-takers. Participants enjoy camps in a wide variety of scientific disciplines, which are often coupled with real-world experiences.
This year, the MLC team includes four students who have come back, year after year, as campers, and are now serving as scholars. Each is outstanding in their pursuit of academic rigor and scientific understanding. Heath Caldwell, Mariah Mercer, Colton Quirk, and Erin Robinson are among the alumni of MLC who have chosen to return and share their love of science with the next generation of campers.
| July 2021 |
Montana Learning Center releases its COVID-19 Toolkit for Montana Child Care and Out-of-School Programs
Available at no cost to all Montana child care and out-of-school program providers
Thanks to a grant from the Washington Foundation and the generosity of its supporters, Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake, located just outside of Helena, Montana, has created the COVID-19 Toolkit for Montana Child Care and Out-of-School Programs. The Toolkit is an updated and expanded version of the well-received COVID-19 Toolkit for Montana Summer Camps, which the Learning Center created for itself and other Montana nonprofit organizations that offered in-person summer camps last summer. The new Toolkit will be available free of charge to all Montana nonprofit and for-profit child care and out-of-school program providers, regardless of size or setting.
The Toolkit explains current COVID-19 guidance from federal and state government agencies, recently enacted Montana laws related to COVID-19 and COVID-19 recommendations from various nonprofit organizations, predominantly in the child care and out-of-school program fields. It also gives providers tools for use in their programs and to send home to parents, ideas on how to update policies and procedures to promote health and safety, and specific activity alternatives to support learning.
| June 2021 |
NASA awards grant to Montana Learning Center
NASA has awarded a $90,000 Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) grant to the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake in Helena, Mont. to boost outreach and educational opportunities across the state. The goal is to engage Montana students and teachers with cutting-edge NASA science and improve students’ and teachers’ STEM skills.
NASA has long been a supporter of the MLC, helping to fund programs that provide students and teachers with opportunities to interact with experts in a variety of STEM fields. These programs also help students develop their collaboration and communications skills, their strategic and tactical planning, implementation and documentation skills, and other skills necessary for success in today’s educational and work environments.
| May 18 2021 |
Montana Learning Center launches Starry Sky Survey Citizen Science Project
The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake is introducing a new opportunity for young citizen scientists to help monitor light pollution in Big Sky Country. The Starry Sky Survey Project is facilitated through public libraries across the Treasure State and is part of a larger effort to track light pollution globally. Data collected by Montana Learning Center’s participants will be added to the international database, “Globe at Night.”
At night light pollution obscures the sky, wastes an estimated 3 billion dollars in energy costs yearly in the US, is linked to negative impacts on human health, and is detrimental to wildlife and natural ecosystems. Light pollution is often caused by unnecessary or excess lighting.
| May 2021 |
Montana Learning Center Awarded Tourism Grant from the State of Montana
The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake has been awarded more than $67,000 from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Tourism Grant program. The funds will be used to upgrade telescopes in the existing observatories, enhance public outreach, and promote awareness of the exceptional facility.
The funding will help Montana Learning Center expand its programs and observatories, which consist of the largest public-access telescope in Montana, and a robotic telescope equipped with a camera specifically designed to capture stellar objects.
| April 2021 |
Montana Learning Center and Carter County Museum announce intern selection
The Montana Learning Center, in partnership with the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka, MT, is pleased to announce the selection of Heath Caldwell for their 2021 Summer Research Internship Program in Paleontology. The program gives students the opportunity to prepare and maintain fossil specimens, organize collections, assist researchers, and help with the many educational activities offered by the MLC and the museum.
| December 2020 |
Montana Learning Center finishes out the season with some of their highlights from the year!
Thanks to our friends and donors who support Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake, a record 330 campers from all across Montana were able to learn and have fun this summer, despite the challenges arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Learning Center’s counselors and instructors did an amazing job keeping campers engaged while ensuring their health and safety. The extra precautions the Center took to keep campers and staff infection-free were worth it, but costly in both time and supplies. The Learning Center led the way in developing policies and procedures to minimize the risks associated with holding in-person summer camps during the pandemic and shared its expertise with other non-profit camps.
| November 2020 |
Montana Learning Center to serve as regional hub for NASA’s 2020-2021 virtual ROADS on Asteroids Student Challenge. Registration now open.
In 2021, NASA will be launching two missions to study asteroids in our solar system. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), scheduled to launch for asteroid Didymos in July 2021, seeks to redirect Didymos’s “moonlet,” a small secondary object in orbit around the asteroid. The Lucy mission, scheduled to launch in October 2021, will investigate the Trojan asteroids that trail Jupiter’s orbit.
In recognition of these missions, NASA’s annual student robotics challenges for 2020-2021 will focus on asteroid exploration. Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake will once again serve as a regional hub for the challenge.
The ROADS (Rover Observation and Drone Survey) on Asteroids Challenge was developed by the NASA-funded Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline based at the University of Washington in Seattle (NESSP). The Challenge will engage students in grades 3 through 12 in interrelated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities designed to simulate a mission to the “snowman” feature on the Vesta asteroid. Vesta is the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
| September 23, 2020 |
Montana Learning Center and Carter County Museum Partner to Provide Unforgettable Learning Experience for Young Paleontologists
The Montana Learning Center and Carter County Museum partnered this summer to provide students in 8th to 12th grade an unforgettable learning experience as working paleontologists.
At Camp Clades & Spades, campers and staff from the Learning Center and the Carter County Museum spent two and a half days at an active dig site in the Pierre Shale Formation in Eastern Montana, excavating the tail end of a mosasaur — a 75 million-year-old predatory marine reptile of the late Cretaceous period that was an average of 30 to 50 feet in length. The mosasaur specimen the campers and staff worked on, known as “Vickie,” has at least 70 articulated vertebrae spanning 28 feet, with multiple pelvic elements and flipper bones. A short hike by the keen-eyed campers resulted in the discovery of ammonites (extinct marine mollusks closely related to octopuses and squid) and vertebrae and gastroliths (rocks inside a reptile’s gastrointestinal tract) from a plesiosaur (a Mesozoic marine reptile).
| September, 2020 |
Montana Learning Center Awarded Grant by Montana Space Grant Consortium to Offer Remote Telescope Teacher Training
The Montana Space Grant Consortium, a component of NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, has awarded the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake a grant to fund the Learning Center’s development and presentation of two new online teacher training courses in collaboration with Montana State University’s National Teacher Enhancement Network. The courses will teach Montana middle and high school educators how to use and do research with a robotic telescope, which will allow them and their students to contribute to publishable research. The new courses expand upon a similar course offered by the Learning Center through MSU in the Spring of 2020.
Since the courses will be taught online, teachers can take the courses no matter where they live in Montana. Through these teachers, students across Montana will have unprecedented access to a robotic telescope and the opportunity to contribute to publishable astronomical research.
| July, 2020 |
Montana Learning Center releases its COVID-19 Toolkit for Montana Summer Camps for use by other Montana nonprofits sponsoring children’s summer camps
Thanks to a grant from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development ‘s Montana Innovation Grant Program, Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake, located just outside of Helena, Montana, has created the COVID-19 Toolkit for Montana Summer Camps, available free of charge to all Montana nonprofit organizations that offer children’s summer camps.
The Toolkit has two parts: a comprehensive manual and a PDF file with graphics and tools that can be used by Montana nonprofit organizations that offer children’s summer camps to develop and document their COVID-19 risk minimization programs.
| May 23, 2020 |
Montana Learning Center is moving forward with
summer camps for 2020!
Dear Parent and/or Guardian,
We are pleased to share the news that we are moving forward with offering our learning camps for kids this summer! As of now, we have spaces available in almost each of our camps. Registration has closed on only a few of our camps, and our website is being updated as camps fill.
We have been receiving a lot of questions regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our summer camps. We are addressing several of those questions in our latest news release, please click on the link below to read more.
| May 2020 |
See Big Sky Country LIVE 24/7 from Anywhere Around the World Thanks to the Montana Learning Center
Montana Learning Center recently added an all-sky camera to the astronomy resources located at its facility on Canyon Ferry Lake, just outside Helena, the capital of Montana.
“The Montana Learning Center’s all-sky camera provides a 180-degree view of the sky and can be accessed from anywhere in the world, as long as the viewer has an Internet connection,” Ryan Hannahoe, the Center’s Executive Director, said. “This is exciting because it allows viewers to enjoy Big Sky Country from wherever they are living.”
These days, the night sky across most urban and suburban sections of the world is filled with diffuse light that shines up, versus down on the ground where it belongs. This “light pollution” makes it hard to see the stars at night. But the night sky at the Learning Center has almost no light pollution due to the Learning Center’s relatively rural location, allowing the stars to dominate the night sky and even offering views of aurora borealis from time to time.
| May 2020 |
Montana Learning Center’s Executive Director facilitates comment letter to Governor Bullock’s Coronavirus Task Force on behalf of nonprofits providing children’s summer camps
At the request of the Montana Nonprofit Association, Ryan Hannahoe, Executive Director of the Montana Learning Center, recently reached out to Montana nonprofits that provide summer camps and other educational enhancement programs for children regarding their needs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their input was summarized in a letter prepared by Ryan and his team and signed by 19 nonprofits from across Montana. The letter was provided to Governor Bullock’s Coronavirus Task Force as part of the Task Force’s solicitation of public comments on ways to use the funds Montana received from the federal government under the CARES Act to help mitigate the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter expressed the signing nonprofits’ hope that they will be able to provide their planned summer programming for children and described what the nonprofits would need to do that. The letter requested clear, yet flexible, science-based guidance on cleaning, screening and staged reopening protocols; funding for various expenses the nonprofits would be incurring as a result of the pandemic; and changes in workers compensation eligibility guidelines so that staff members who contract the virus at work qualify for workers compensation benefits.
You can read the letter the nonprofits sent to the Task Force by clicking on the button below and see Ryan’s interview with MTN News here.
| April 2020 |
Montana Learning Center joins Skynet, the international robotic telescope network based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Opportunities to explore the universe from the comfort of home and classroom have never been easier or more exciting.
A new partnership between the Montana Learning Center, located at Canyon Ferry Lake, just outside of Helena, Montana, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will bring into focus faint stars and galaxies, and distant smudges of color from clouds of gas and dust found deep in space.
This partnership will allow students and teachers who participate in the Montana Learning Center’s programs to access prominent observatories around the world, such as the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, Siding Springs Observatory in Australia and Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia.
“Being a part of the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill allows us to be on an international stage,” said Ryan Hannahoe, Executive Director of the Montana Learning Center. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to serve not only students and teachers from across Montana, but also students and teachers around the world.”
| March 2020 |
Montana Learning Center is excited to announce its Inaugural Big Sky Star Festival coming this July
Come mid-July, Montana’s awe-inspiring night sky will be center stage at the Montana Learning Center’s inaugural Big Sky Star Festival. The two-night and three-day event, this coming July 17, 18 and 19, will be held at the Montana Learning Center’s campus at Canyon Ferry Lake, near Helena, Montana.
Astronomy experts from across the nation will be there to share expertise and experiences. The highlight of each evening will be the viewing of planets, galaxies and nebulae through the Montana Learning Center’s 25-inch telescope.
“As home to the largest public-use observatory in Montana, we are thrilled to be offering this opportunity to bring people from all walks of life together to celebrate the beauty of the night sky,” said Ryan Hannahoe, Executive Director of the Montana Learning Center.
| January 2020 |
The Montana Learning Center Launches Research-grade Remote Telescope for Students and Teachers
With a click of a computer mouse, science teachers nationwide will soon be able to open a window for students to explore the wonders of the night sky.
The distant light of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae will become part of students learning and doing research through free online training offered to science teachers by the Montana Learning Center, located at Canyon Ferry Lake outside of Helena.
This training will allow teachers to use the Montana Learning Center’s 16-inch research-grade Ritchey-Chretien telescope for classroom projects and to also train students in the telescope’s use.
| October 2019 |
The Montana Learning Center to host NASA’s ROADS on Mars Student Challenge for Montana. Registration now open.
NASA’s ROADS (Rover Observation and Drone Survey) on Mars Challenge, a program by the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline that’s based at the University of Washington in Seattle, seeks to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEAM). This program parallels NASA’s Mars 2020 effort and pays tribute to the heroism of the Apollo 13 astronauts and the vision of human exploration of the solar system.
The competition consists of three parts and examines how water may have shaped some of the landscape of Mars, a search for methane gas that could help indicate the presence of past life and lastly the use of a drone and rover to survey an official map of the Mars landscape and collect specimens.
Students in grades 3 through 12 may enter the ROADS on Mars Challenge.
| September 2019 |
Timothy Ferris, world-renowned author and producer of the Golden Record on board the Voyager Spacecraft, makes landmark donation to the Montana Learning Center
Timothy Ferris, who traces his fascination with the night sky to his childhood in rural Florida, is helping children today cultivate the same passion.
Ferris, 75, who was the producer of the Golden Record on board the Voyager Spacecraft, the author of more than a dozen books, and an editor of “Rolling Stone,” is donating a Byers Series III robotic telescope mount to the Montana Learning Center. This high-end equipment will help share the cosmos with students and teachers who come to the Helena area campus to learn about astronomy.
The Montana Learning Center currently has two observatories and is working on plans to construct a third.
| August 2019 |
Montana Learning Center to Host Dark Sky Conference
Beginning on Sept. 27, the Montana Learning Center in partnership with the Montana Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association will offer an opportunity to view the brilliance of the cosmos during the 2019 Montana Dark Sky Conference & Star Party.
“Astronomy is one of the many sciences that anyone can be a part of,” Hannahoe said. “You can go outside, look up and be overwhelmed with the vastness of Montana’s starry skies.”
The conference and star party, which concludes on Sunday, Sept. 29, will be held at the Montana Learning Center campus, 7653 Canyon Ferry Road, which is located just outside of Helena. Registration is $25 for adults and $10 for students. Children will be required to be accompanied by an adult.
| June 2019 |
Join us for a celebration with the stars on July 6 at the Montana Learning Center!!!
Nebulae, galaxies, and all that grace Montana’s night sky will be on display at the Mike and Lynn Rice Astronomical Park at the Montana Learning Center, 7653 Canyon Ferry Road.
The Montana Learning Center has been offering summer science camps for kids and teacher trainings since the 1980s!
You are invited to join the public grand opening for the Mike and Lynn Rice Astronomical Park. Tours of the observatory complex will begin at 9 p.m.
The highlight of the evening’s events will be viewing the night sky through the Montana Learning Center’s 25-inch telescope, the largest public-use telescope in Montana. The light of distant stars, planets, and galaxies will be brought to you in brilliant color.
| May 2019 |
Clancy’s awarding-winning science teacher, Ryan Hannahoe, will become the full-time executive director of the Montana Learning Center
Hannahoe will start as the center’s full-time director on June 1, 2019. His work will allow the Montana Learning Center, located at Canyon Ferry Lake outside of Helena, to further its mission of providing and promoting quality immersion experiences for all in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in a unique lakeside setting.
To help support his position at the Montana Learning Center, Hannahoe has been awarded a Montana Space Grant Consortium Faculty Fellowship.
Prior to receiving the fellowship, Hannahoe shared his time between teaching science in Clancy and as the Montana Learning Center’s executive director – a position he has held since 2016.
| January 2019 |
The Montana Learning Center has been selected by NASA to host the Apollo 50th Next Giant Leap Student Challenge for Montana.
The Montana Learning Center, located at Canyon Ferry Lake outside of Helena, has been chosen as one of 14 institutions nationwide as regional hubs for Apollo 50th Next Giant Leap Student Challenge, a competition for middle school and high school students. The aeronautics, engineering and robotics competition is hosted by NASA and the Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline, a collaborative K-12 education effort based at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake is known across the state as a premier center for kids’ camps and teacher training that are STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) based. Being a hub for the NASA challenge shines a national light on our nonprofit, our programs and the good work that we do,” said Ryan Hannahoe, executive director of the Montana Learning Center.